Nighttime with the beam

It’s 3 a.m. on Sunday, July 20 and I am sitting at a giant panel of computers sprouting wires from every which side trying to move a little dot across a screen.  I am 3/8 done with my shift.  Beside me are Sue and Leo, a university dean-physicist and a graduate student working at the synchrotron who have kindly agreed to stay the night with me, and we have just discovered that sheeted packing foam is alive.  This is because it perversely lifts its edges and shimmies a few millimeters wrongward every time we turn our backs on it, effectively destroying the careful balance between laser sensors and ancient bronze duckbill we have spent the last hour nudging into place.  Usually after leaving the hatch I can tweak the Z-coordinates remotely to get the final spot right, but when I overstep some sort of limit it freaks out and jumps to our magic number, -58.0000.  Hopefully all this trouble with the keyences will translate into really good XRD scans.  Already we have gotten some startling information from XRFs, the elemental distribution patterns, which suggests that lead was being alloyed into bronze much earlier than the literature states.  Work here is a trip, and not just in the sense of inviting shaky red hallucinations of numbers and tricycles in front of your eyes.

— Tiffany


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